Family Dinner: Time to make travel memories
Family Dinner A Way To Make Travel Memories
When we think of how to keep the kids busy and happily occupied we often reach for electronics – IPad, iPod, DS….etc. the never-ending list of acronyms that keep kiddos silent and zombie-like.
Don’t feel guilty! We all have those electronic devices and happily use them.
You knew there was a but coming, didn’t you? Electronics are wonderful for long trips – planes, trains, automobiles, where everyone needs to be quiet and occupied, but not the family dinner table!
No electronics at the dinner table. Why?
Family Dinner is a time for sharing, reconnecting and bonding.
The research is firm that eating dinner with your kids adds LOTS of benefits to their lives.
When you eat with the kids you talk to them. Tell them about your day and ask them about theirs. Are your kids too young to say much about their day? Then ask about the flowers on the table or the food on their plate.
Ask their opinion about a movie you saw or their favorite tv character. Get them talking and look into their eyes. See that sparkle? Kids love to be listened to.
Do you think it doesn’t matter when kids talk about something ‘silly’?
You couldn’t be more wrong.
You need to listen now to the ‘silly ‘stuff so one day they’ll tell you the ‘big’ stuff. Why?
Because to them, it was ALL big stuff.
According to Forbes,
“All of us want to be listened to, all of us want to really be heard. When someone senses you are really listening to what they have to say amazing things can happen. “
From The Importance of Listening to Kids come these lovely words,
“The single most important thing is to take time to LISTEN to your children—as fellow human beings, not just as your charges or pet projects. There’s a wise little human soul in there, ageless in heart even while young in time.”
What is gained from eating with your kids; talking and listening to them? The list is long!
1. Family dinner time increases the good stuff.
Kids who eat regularly with their families have higher self-esteem and grade point averages! Eating together as a family increases vocabulary even better than reading does! Children also eat healthier by watching you make healthy choices.
2. Family dinner time decreases the bad stuff.
Kids who eat regularly with their families have lower rates of obesity and eating disorders. Family time at the dinner table is important.
Now it’s time to add our ‘but’.
BUT….we like to eat dinner in front of the television.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you are talking about said show – turn off the boob tube! Record it and watch it later. Talk to each other! Research shows that the number of words spoken to a child really matters. Between birth and 3 years of age, you lay down the foundations for academic success in later life. Read the fascinating research here on the 35 million word gap.
Kids realize they are free to talk and really be heard at the dinner table. Take time to discuss your day and theirs – good and bad. Nothing is off limits at the table.
But…my husband doesn’t get home till very late.
I hear you. That is exactly what happens at my house. So, the kids and I eat together and when hubby comes home he eats usually on the couch while everyone clamors around to talk to him about the day. It isn’t perfect according to the research, but it is what we can manage and if that is all you can manage then that is ok, too. We eat together on the weekends and have long dinners when on family vacations where we get the time to bond and really listen to one another.
But….we have sports and extra curricular activities most nights.
Absolutely! Kids these days have busy schedules. I feel like we schlep kids around like crazy all the time – band, playdate, a practice of some sort. I am a mini van blur on the road between practices and games! But you can still make family time a priority – how about dessert together when everyone is home from their activities? Bond over cherries and cinnamon crackers. (Our fave!)
But…..I’m too tired to cook!
I love this one because I just hate to cook. You spend so much time planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up….and about 2 seconds to eat. HATE! The good news is that what is wonderful and beneficial about family dinners is not the food – but the company. (Whew! Thank goodness for me because I am terrible at cooking!) So, use the crock pot, order pizza, open a can or steam something in a bag…do whatever is simple food wise because that part just doesn’t matter. What matters is the conversation and the listening.
But….we’ve been traveling for 2 weeks and I would like a few minutes to myself at dinner time!
No doubt! Being together 24/7 is a lot of together time.
Sometimes mom and dad want to have a few minutes to sip their wine and savor the wonderful ambiance of their vacation destination.
When you want a moment to breathe, it is time to pull out the journals!
Journaling is a GREAT way to pass the time while waiting for food on a vacation. We journal on every family vacation and I love looking back on them. They become treasured keepsakes. Even the youngest child can join in.
I give each child a journal. Inside they use a page for the day to draw a picture of what happened and write a few words. If your little one can’t really spell yet, they’ll have fun trying. Be sure to write, in English 😉 what they have written so you can interpret later.
Here are some pages from my then 3 1/2 year old’s journal from visiting South Carolina. He wrote the word swim and he dictated the rest.
There are no rules about what to write in a journal. Whatever is on their mind is OK. Clearly, Green Lantern was big at the time. Again, he wrote the word Green Lantern and then dictated the rest. I love looking back to see what was on his mind.
Even the youngest kiddo can draw a picture and then dictate. Write word for word. Their thoughts are precious. Bring glue and scissors and let them add tickets, napkins from restaurants and pieces of brochures (like the albino alligator you see here). Journals are good for every age!
Or bring out our travel activity guide on your destination.
The kids can learn and have fun at the same time. Click on your destination’s travel activity guidebook just for the kids.
No matter how you manage the family dinner together you’ll all benefit from it!
Adventures in France
Adventures in the Louvre – a museum in Paris, France
Adventures in Spain
Adventures in the Prado – a museum in Madrid, Spain
Talk to the kids during your family dinner and enjoy it – all the while patting yourself on the back for being a good parent with research to back it up!
Happy yummy travels,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist